Michael Hingson—Creating a More Inspired, Inclusive Society

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Michael Hingson—Creating a More Inspired, Inclusive Society


Ben Perez, Contributing Writer


Michael Hingson and his guide dog. Photo by Josie Reynoso.

Michael Hingson was born to extremely supportive parents. They wanted him to be anything he chose and fostered a love for curiosity early on. 

“I was always fascinated by science and looked up to my father. He was an electronics engineer, and whenever I could, I loved helping him repair TVs,” Hingson says. “Yeah, I got zapped a few times, but, as my father always said, I had to learn sometime. And eventually, I did.”

By age six Hingson could do algebra in his head, thanks to his dad. At 14 they got their amateur radio licenses together. “I remember cracking up talking to my father over the radio asking him, ‘Oh, how's the weather over there?’ Knowing well and good we were only a few rooms apart,” he reminisces. 

His story may not sound unusual for a physicist, but Hingson has an extra challenge: He’s blind. Hingson was born with retinopathy of prematurity, a disease that can occur in premature babies when blood vessels grow abnormally in the retina and cause loss of vision. Because of this, many people have written him off. But he can accomplish the same tasks as sighted people, he just needs different tools. 

Hingson learned to read Braille at an early age, and if Braille books weren’t available, a parent or volunteer would read him the information he wanted to know. He uses a guide dog to help him navigate the world, along with technology such as AIRA, a “visual interpreter” that helps translate the visual world into an auditory one.

Using such tools, Hingson continued his education and graduated from the University of California, Irvine, with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in physics and a teaching certificate. That’s where he was inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma. “I would have been Phi Beta Kappa, too, if we’d have had a chapter of that honor society when I attended,” he says.

He’d planned to pursue a career in teaching, but like many scientists, Hingson’s career path didn’t follow a linear progression. He began working with the National Federation of the Blind, and that’s where he got into sales. Forty-one years later, Hingson has built quite a career in the field, first selling technology and now selling himself as a motivational speaker. Although he doesn’t do hard science anymore, he applies many of the skills he learned as a physics student—paying attention to details, being methodical, taking all factors into consideration, and exploring all paths to a new venture.

A defining day in Hingson’s life was September 11, 2001. He was working in one of the World Trade Center towers when terrorists attacked; he descended 78 floors to safety with the help of his guide dog, Roselle. He immortalized their story in his New York Times best-selling book Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust. Soon after, he started receiving invitations to speak about his experience that day, his life, and dealing with change.

Today, Hingson has turned most of his attention to speaking, inspiring and motivating audiences around the world with his story and the life lessons he’s learned along the way. He also serves as the chief vision officer for accessiBe, an Israeli company whose products help make websites more inclusive. Inclusion doesn’t only apply to race, gender, and religion, but also to people of all abilities, Hingson says. “That last one often gets left out of the conversation, but if we truly want to be an inclusive society, then it means making society accessible for everyone.”

Looking ahead, Hingson wants to do everything he can to build a better world. That includes traveling, speaking, educating, and consulting. He is working on a new book, A Guide Dog’s Guide to Being Brave, and hosts the podcast “Unstoppable Mindset,” where inclusion, diversity, and the unexpected meet. “Honestly, I have so many interests I want to pursue. I can’t afford to retire now,” he says. 

To learn more about Michael Hingson, his book, and his speaking career, visit MichaelHingson.com or email him at speaker [at] michaelhingson.com.


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